The topic of archival permanence and image stability of fine art photographic prints surfaces amongst professional collectors from time to time, so I wanted to provide a guide on these matters and offer my perspective and first-hand experience for my art buyers and collectors.
Before I share specific details about archival permanence and print care, I want to start with a simple and profound statement.
The only artwork that is proven to be archival are cave paintings.
Everything else will have to proven over the coming decades and centuries.
They may sound funny or strange, but it is true.
Remember, it is easy to make claims when all parties involved will not be living to ensure the claims are true and accurate. I personally am suspect of the claims of contemporary photography manufacturers that claim hundreds of years of archival permanence. I think this is a lot of marketing propaganda used as a sales tool.
I encourage people to buy new art because they love it and take some extra steps which I outline below to make sure the artist is transparent with you in regards to materials used and expectations regarding archival permanence.
The vast majority of people purchase art because they love it or it has a special meaning to them, not because it may last for centuries.
If you are truly only concerned with archival permanence as your sole purchasing criteria, then you should purchase platinum prints exclusively. While we only have history of platinum prints dating back to the mid 19th century, in theory, they can last as long as the cotton paper they are printed on. We know from other paper documents in history that could be thousands of years.
BOTTOM LINE FOR MY ART BUYERS & COLLECTORS
There are two key factors concerning image stability and archival permanence of fine art prints on any type of substrate (i.e., cotton, fiber, resin coated).
First, the artist must follow proper archival procedures which directly relates to the removal of unwanted by-products that will end in failure. These undesirable by-products interact with the atmosphere and can have unwanted impacts to artwork.
The second and one of the largest influencers of how long any type of photographic art will last are the storage and display conditions (i.e., temperature, humidity, light and handling), and that is why I include a section on this information below.
For maximum permanence, I suggest having a professional frame shop dry mount your platinum or platinum/palladium artwork following the proper heating and pressure guidelines of the mounting tissue.
Long-term tests indicate dry-mounted prints fare better than prints that are hinge or corner mounted because the dry mount tissue acts as a barrier to pollutants that can be absorbed by the mount board and then transferred to the print.
For smaller artwork, up to 16×20, I dry mount before shipping to my buyers. For larger artwork, I roll the artwork between two acid and lignin free tissues and carefully place in an oversized tube for shipment.
I take a very simple and clear position with my artwork.
When a collector buys one of my exclusive wild horse platinum artwork, I guarantee that artwork to look like the day they purchased it for the rest of their life so long as they follow my handling and care guidelines.
Any claims beyond this is marketing propaganda.
I take every known and reasonable care during the artwork creation process to ensure the long-term performance of my artwork. Once the art leaves my studio, the environment in which it is displayed and/or stored becomes the more important determinant of the artwork permanence.
For my platinum and palladium prints, I follow the relevant museum archival standards to include proper clearing and archival washing methods. Platinum prints are only subject to issues associated with their paper base when properly processed because platinum and to a slightly less degree, palladium, is effectively impervious to oxidation and environmental contaminants.
I use the worlds best materials and I executive a very specific and detailed archival workflow that I share with any art buyer and collector that wants to review it.
WHAT IS ARTWORK PERMANENCE?
Artwork permanence refers to the longevity of printed material and preservation issues. Over time, the optical density, color balance, luster, and other qualities of artwork can and will degrade. The rate at which deterioration occurs depends primarily on two main factors: the artwork itself, that is, the colorants used to form the image and the medium on which image resides, and the type of environment the print is exposed to.
ARCHIVAL PROCESSING PROCEDURES MATTER
For platinum and palladium archival processing, I follow the same time-proven methods for clearing and archival washing that have been documented from the mid 19th century. Because platinum and palladium are highly stable noble metals, the real risk is environmental issues related to the paper. As described above, I strongly suggest dry-mounting all prints because the dry mount tissue acts as a barrier to pollutants that can be absorbed by the mount board.
CARE & HANDLING GUIDELINES
For artwork up to 16×20, I dry mount the artwork on a 100% cotton, acid, and lignin-free mounting board with a window mat that is hinge-taped using archival linen tape. I title, date, and sign the window mat to complete your artwork.
For larger prints, I roll the prints between two acid and lignin free tissues and carefully place in an oversized tube for shipment. Upon receipt of the new artwork, I recommend taking the new artwork to a professional frame shop and having them dry mount the print to the same type of mount board as described above this paragraph and then following the additional suggestions included below.
To help resist environmental hazards associated with displaying your new artwork, a UV protective glass or plexiglass glazing should be used, often referred to as museum glass.
If you choose to store your prints versus displaying them, maintaining relative humidity between 30% and 50% is advisable and room temperature should not exceed 85F/29C.
I certify all of my limited edition fine art prints are masterfully handmade by me in my darkroom and no part of the process is outsourced to any other party. I only use the highest quality materials meeting museum quality standards and I take great care to follow the time-proven archival methods dating back to the 19th century.
PRINT CARE, DISPLAY, & HANDLING TIPS
- Never hang your artwork in direct sunlight.
- Never hang your artwork under or over an air vent.
- Hang your framed artwork at a very slight upward angle to allow air to circulate around the print. Small clear rubber pads/feet mounted on the bottom frame are a good option for employing this method.
- Only use a dry lint-free cloth to wipe the UV protective/museum glass.
- Maintain relative humidity where the print is displayed/stored in the 30% to 50% range.
- Extreme heat and wildly changing temperatures can expedite print deterioration issues. Avoid exposing your artwork to temperatures above 85F/29C.
- If your artwork is ever exposed to smoke, moisture, or water, do not attempt to fix it yourself. Contact me or a print conservator immediately.
- If lighting your artwork, avoid using any light source of more than 120 footcandles. LED lighting is the preferred source. I like a light temperature in the 3200K to 3500K range. Only light your print when viewing. Excessive light exposure can accelerate deterioration.
- For maximum permanence, have a professional frame shop dry mount your artwork following the proper heating and pressure guidelines of the mounting tissue. Long-term tests indicate dry-mounted prints fare better than prints that are hinge or corner mounted because the dry mount tissue as a barrier to pollutants that can be absorbed by the mount board.